I leaned into crazy
as any Protestant
slowly, lips pressed
in a line. I count
the nights like this,
sweat-stuck to the
floor, silent and supine.
I’m so undone I sob
into latte I peel denim
from my skin I lay still
on linoleum I feel so cool.
Outside wind licks at the lake
and I imagine myself stomping
rocks into smoke. Understand,
once I was so light
In therapy, seven Kleenex
boxes offer their bodies—
eager as any man.
This body betray this body self
destruct this body reflex this body
sick this body this body bloodthirst
I say I am fine and the lie
falls to my lips and lay there.
I forget where I am. My doctor
has a silly name. I think myself
a feral thing licking its wounds
in the dark until it is no longer thirsty.
prepares its body
making mulled wine
in the upstairs shower
How goes dad
how go you
The wind ices your lips
and calls your maiden name
Mother: there are
so many things
to take and be
Sometimes I am eating
a salad and nearly die
over the quality of its
lettuce O Mother,
it throws me
truly, I am always
I’ve been pruning in a shallow
bath for days, slicking sardines
with flesh black pepper down
my throat, chasing them
with bathwater, soapsweet.
When I was young, I drew scribbles
on the wall and named them Woman
or Fruitfly or Sugargrain and things
were what they were because I named
them. Now, I call the sickle scar on my
thigh moon and it is still a scar.
How many names has this body
been given? Beastgirl, Firstborn,
Sunlight flits atop the sardine can
and settles in the fold of my stomach,
on the ledge of my clavicle. The drain
sucks at water between my feet. Even nothing has a name.
What the end times brought forth was
a family reunion unprecedented, the buffet
fit for megafauna. The last time we managed
this was, God, years ago. In simpler times,
before the meteorite crashlanded.
I did not feel so divided from you then.
But alas, here we are! Once more.
It is so good to see you. It is so good to
see at all. The star-nosed mole cannot,
but he is still in underground attendance.
Uncle Frog -- now Aunt Amphibiana --
is gestating infants inside of her mouth.
Cousin trees go wild for musical chairs!
They are running quickly on root feet
but the weather, as always, is winning.
Delightful Domain! A throbbing barrage!
Camel and wombat pose for a photo.
The mosquitos are thrilled! There is
so much to eat here. The foliage dances.
Everyone is drunken and biosphering.
Who, you protest, will be guest of honor?
But you know it is little human you.
They lean over the stroller to coo and coo.
This avian avalanche, Insecta influx, it all
comes down to the Homo sapien hurrah.
We felines and we fungi have never
felt more alike, and of course, we are
all falling apart together. Mother is
close to brain dead, but by all means,
keep going. It is simply too spectacular.
We are boarding an ark now, grasping
hands and entering our last-ditch torpor.
I do not know if we will make it.
I walked to the top of the mountain.
Bare feet on black pavement, pushing my bike
as the hill was too steep. Early summer.
Early evening. The sun had not set and my heart was still
racing, an unreasonable thing, but inevitable.
Sourceless momentum that carried me
past the parking lot and up the green path, past construction’s
orange signs, following it until there was nothing to follow.
I stood at the foot of the tall stone steps.
Carved out of time, some necessary blurring
of the true and the story of it. I carried my dead authors
in my hands, inhabited this landscape with their ghosts.
That day I’d cut my finger while slicing a bagel in two.
Plastic gloves, serrated knife, a customer whose face
I can’t remember—nor which came first: the intake of breath
or the blood—the way it turns red at the first touch of air.
On the steps I faced the lion—as if he, too, were my mirror.
It was by then nearly dark, the forest heavy green.
I told the mountain I’d come back.
I meant it. How easy it would be to find endearing
the things I used to want.
The standing in a field. The looking out.
Looking down to my Nikes, Stefan Janoski’s, fresh
barely chewed by the days since they found me
at the corner of our high school with only one faint
fray in the leather. Fresh, a present from you.
Tonight, I sat in a dark auditorium, listening to echoes,
echoes of a man reading poems on paradise. I looked
down to feel what my auricles felt, touching, vibrating;
instead I saw my Nike’s. Black, a swoosh, meshing into
the light and shadows birthed in the stillness and quiet
of the open room.
We walked in rain, in December, in Marin through quiet
streets where we didn’t say much, smoking, coffee
and cigarettes held in our hands — our hands like vices.
Tall bay trees walked, stood and waved in rain and wind as
we peer to the creek — now river — twenty feet below
us, a muddy flow reminding us of growing up.
We look. Back in the auditorium, paradise is spoken for you.
The rain gets harder in Marin. And, standing like a sign or
foreshadowing, a pair of turquoise Janoskis, new,
seeped in the rain, heavy with silence. You take them
with you. The rains dry on the pavement and the Janoskis.
You wear them when you leave.
Back in the auditorium, the poet still speaks.
Still searches for the paradise, asking where it lingers
or not. Asks why. A good question.
I was confidently mountain biking, which is weird because I’ve never done that before. I saw this “sick jump” and I knew I had to take it. Suddenly, I was up in the air and about to fall off a cliff but I wasn’t scared. I saw the edge of the cliff and I grabbed it at just the right time. I got up and then this guy came over and he asked if I was alright. I said, “Yeah, but I almost fell off that cliff.” We looked down and the bottom of the cliff was about nine feet below us. I asked him how far he thought that was. He said, “About nine feet.”
The Third Walrus
There were three Easter eggs, and I knew that each of them was poisonous. I didn’t know which one to pick. I looked up and nobody was waiting for me to pick but I knew I had to pick. So I picked the one on the left. Somebody, I think it was me, opened it and it was filled with gelt. Nobody asked me what I thought was in it, but I remember answering with, “This is bright gold gelt.”
Package for delivery. I couldn’t read the name, but that was okay. A big walrus gave me the package and I remember because it was big. And the flippers.
There was no way that walrus could have held the package, I’m no Suskamachoo. So the walrus disappeared and then I was in a cave with a really big boiling pot. And that was pretty scary, I’ll admit that.
Frank the Walrus
This was the last train to Clarksville and I was at the station. I didn’t know what time it was but it didn’t seem like things worked like that in Clarksville. But then I realized that I wasn’t in Clarksville yet.
Frank Walrus is a thing of which I cannot conceive.
Frank Walrus does not love me and Frank Walrus certainly does not love you. Frank Walrus is love in absentia; he is a void with no love and no waffles-Magorium. Who even is Frank Walrus? Frank Walrus is just some proper noun wordsmash with vague allusions to God and the Tao and the mystic Saint Josephine. Whatever. Fuck it. Fuck Frank Walrus.
Frank Walrus might eat your children, I don’t know. Frank Walrus donates to every cause you hate and avidly boycotts those that you love. Fuck it. Frank Walrus isn’t shit, spit on his image.
Do not let Frank Walrus into your life. All he wants is waffles-Magorium and I have no more to give. His diplomatic lectures were never more than cornflakes. Wake yourself from this dream of who you once thought Frank Walrus was, but know that the harder you try, the more impossible it will become. To struggle against Frank Walrus is to accept Frank Walrus as something where you and I both know that Frank Walrus is nothing. This dream species cake-in-hand hoodlum is codswallop. Frank Walrus is done, he’s gone. Right now.
You won, you beat him. There is no more Frank Walrus and, from now on, you get to keep all the waffles-Magorium. You are mystic Saint Josephine.
We turned your clock again to assure your heels once more the burial mistress, her body dawned over stone the culp of the plow.
A peel of the tombing babed by swaddlecloth and grain’s eve for sunmothered tracks sooned as you were sleeped: ashore as your were born.
A road journeyed south, a hand turned astone ofsea.
Back open water cumbs to sea astone.
Aforn afrom fedwave I’ll have the wall your back was up again adipping updripping gauged whipping your skin for the cane and the cane’s holding.
A tumbling came through his feet ofland and a stone journeyed.
See him fromsun.
I’ll have his name in a place overseen and might twin at random reaching rams in the eitherribbons of fullstitched murials of my grassend.
All men find their ends in a grass.
The seabead man’s wake.
An ovulant stretch to sun.
And such a stretch nowed see him in the tracks.
And down such rode and in its midness a lady leeving lieves to let and worship milk pouring on everlimb O a nympant swim in the wombing.
And down through such midness his eye dithyrhymned the seeding rode and he tumbled not for he turned astone ofsea to hishand.
Say thee her body in a plyth how comes his mind.
A peel of the wombing he to the stone now it stones.
How he dithyrhymns the blooding the stone does it speak back:
Out of a tree came your falling.
Remnants yet of the wheel assured its shed and its vein, seconds of the best of men.
A sow to their mouthes she adores a swaddling, sea a warble babed in seed, Adam at random leads the premises.
A shower, a wettening, a lee, a sinking:
Mankind stumble forth of her lashen pore.
A pore through the sate, sapid sapient, a lactic flow.
A seasonal impulse for vision.
A trough cistans, urreligion and thurge immol, larum comes the sought a mew cleared the world and errand of further gull, this phallic vegetant beneath seas, sought is thought to see and seize grip and grasp this world all, come conscious.
Sume wroth sistrum in: the bethlam restings.
Melolaw concised and sung, sistrum sing as his eyes swing to socket and come felling trees phrygian, the midrush of sistress in the maw, the linguam guranator through mapped hulks.
How the castrants stummed, their mouthes fedmud, to be born again by their hips, O bees keep your buzzing, to be again langurous in the pollin!
He laid to wrest his mend by the collum.
He bears the great sun mooring above the dawn, ashame for his hands, thestone placed.
A coming gathered the mud.
A drevvy, saved by the well of collumb comes.
Culth stretched in the mulk.
Tull of dolmens they say gone mad.
A calculan swaled once and the hay came down in its treading.
Any tulm thames and a moon mooned and dulled and he trembled barefoot and sulked off mud for weeks and then fore out his eyes a cuncullan and smoke in the coolth he found his spittle.
A cuncullan culled, must be walls for how else such roof?
Once lade cool he found his feet upon such sill.
He knocked, or else did he knock, or did he cumb a knock on the wooden heavement hewn on the hulks.
A walled reeling and the journey where was the sea behind him.
O a heavement here such walled, he culked his feet more and O such a dreaving he did in his heave.
Where: O let him plead mudfed and enswallowed of such stone sprung rampant.
Take off the wools of grass, alain in meadow a ceilinged fire.
Off to meadow and alain come whispered mudstalks the willow that was in the branched tree clingings.
I see a silling a window that is and the walling which mends it not, save the meadow that wills in that utter istofade.
O all: it is to babe!
I know he could have washed him alive the eye the reedsreeek unseaed, the pleroma of nightshade, castrant to be langurourous, strung.
A reeds hum, a lost origin to the mending.
Come given a night, a nightbled weep, he could have for I saw the saw that feeds.
What have I been hungering, lean.
A collum colled, come cadmus, come oedipus, I saw.
A callor, a pillar, reeded, the calender recorded, apparently conceived warm in its bleed.
A simple sunstance judged not of semblance.
An origin stood away the wind stars and shoots upstance alight anight.
Her body washed in seawater, a colming came to her hair beautified.
Alast the wind scattered fore the night.
A toll for coming.
O to come catching the sillen the lofthidden wave O to be leaving my head on its sillwool to see me sirened on stone, to see over wheat the only sun a watching rise.
The fullstitched murials of my grassend.
Where all men find end.
The seabeads find wake: an ovulance.
I sunned ocean I shun, take lambe as your warden, lambleak as warning bah to bah will you see the willing in the meadow, the sun setten.
Coll cadmus come.
And a tongue! Burth curve and lamblipped, you are meadowed. The surring bah and to bah back. O, her lips on you and the deadsea dugs everwet. When archons walked hilltop. To be no curve in the meadow. Settle now for I set my stutter to lipping avowal a vestal washed not in the daying, the wetness she ran like a daygull, truly southing she laid her cold hands on herself and spoke the gullnotes through the spittle, the endlike cooing of her kicking singing fore the moon the lipnote of her breathing and as if sooned by her beading the wayman pebbled and announced himself intoned upon her road to read the plynthculp, in the mermud the reek of shell, extand from beneath his hullbones he pulled a riveread theorem and the broadawn baywinds flashed to read him his root in the marls to feed him his roost in the bedlambs and his lips mumming her body moonbroad stretched ovulant reaches she for he O say I saw forth allread with the bedlambs and the curlnote of their lapping say thee I witness thee I wash thee!
The grass: the blade: spuriant deodands. Unpurposed stone belays the field. Threads of stone run docent, droned. Be, betide, be tide, be happened. A god is behind the wall wracking the earth, searching out sound in the stone. Seeking bliss in the inner tryst of all eyes crowded by: the first siren. A god to all sailors who shall be found upon the moon. Fresh from heat I dread where his lamb wracks the earth.
I built a city inside the belly of my mother.
When they gutted her like a fatted calf,
I crawled inside and made my home,
opened small coffee shops for artists
When they gutted her like a fatted calf
I drew bridges along her ribcage,
opened small coffee shops for artists.
I learned lessons in living smaller.
I drew bridges along her ribcage,
to reach the places I did not know.
I learned lessons in living smaller
in the flimsy world of flesh.
To reach the places I did not know
I built churches on the avenues of her bones.
In the flimsy world of flesh
I installed street lamps on her sidewalks.
I built churches on the avenues of her bones
filled with half spent candles and aging idols
I installed street lamps on her sidewalks.
She lit up like a jar of fireflies.
Filled with half-spent candles and aging idols:
I burnt an entire city down inside her.
She lit up like a jar of fireflies.
Her belly grew heavy with smoke.
I burnt an entire city down inside my mother.
I built a city inside the belly of my mother.
I crawled inside. Made my home.
Her belly grew heavy with smoke.
My Dear Boy, the War is Over…
At the gates of Horn & Ivory I am sick
with power. Sink my teeth in the muddied
fur of beast. Growl at its feet. This is not
the hour for honest doorways. I exit hell
by the way of false dreams. In morning,
the spoons all bend to the mysterious
shape of crude letters. The teacup shivers
in my hands. The entire world is an inch
off balance, while I am filling jars
with night at your discretion: cupping
the murky sky into my palm
like a firefly between flickers. I grasp
at everything. Palm and finger
trinkets from shelves and corners. It all resists
for a moment then gives gently
with the promise of a golden bough.
The shadows that move and do not speak
frighten me. They keep me from the noble
ivory castle that I build around my heart.
In May I am gentle
with the time marking
the waxing and waning
of tongues, where I come
timid like a fawn
to my lover. Cocooned
in the interiority of the doorway
in my museumed room
in my domestic still
life, I shuck away
my grievances like gray
shored East River bones.
Endlessly quiet about
the way I’m drowning
in a sea of green apples,
the way my legs have moved me
into abstraction. I feel more and more
like a pronoun, a euphemism
like I’m not wholly I.
In June the sun is only
dazzling the dust
1. Emily Dickinson was obsessed with the brain. In her work it represents the curious intersection of body and the ethereal Self. The brain is both organ and the synthesizer of identity. Dickinson creates and explores entire worlds within the scope of this organ – for example, in #280 she describes a funeral in her brain, and the bustle of mourning rituals. Entire processions take place; there are crowds and even the unfolding of plots. The paradox of the brain is its dual nature as both physical (the organ) and intangible (the faculty of thought). This paradox becomes something discomforting due to Dickinson’s reductionism: a person is boiled down to the various parts of Heart, Body, Brain. This discomfort stems not so much from the grisly anatomical connotations, but for its insinuation that the vehicles of our humanity are finite. The Heart will stop, the Mind will deteriorate, and the Body rot – and our personhood, so couched in these specific organs, follows suit. Even our individuality will decompose, and this is a kind of death more complete than we are comfortable imagining. The death of the body is the death of the self.
2. “I mostly write about disgusting, violent things. I’m really liking it.”
“Are you in that class on Emily Dickinson?”
3. Dickinson’s use of the dash is a precursor to modern free verse. It carries the movement on even after the verse has finished, a travelling or unraveling of thoughts that acts as a natural, stream-of-consciousness bridge from one isolated line to the next. Nothing is ever finished with a dash. It is dissipated or transformed. The dash allows a thought to exist beyond the words written on the paper as an indication of the magnitude of thought that exists behind the poem. It is the vector for a thought to return to the psychological landscape from which it first emerged.
4. It amazes me she even allowed visitors near her… ecstasy is such a precious thing to inhabit in the presence of the distractions that live downstairs. I would not want to have known her, only sat on her porch and known that genius was having its way upstairs, and I could drink my tea, alone, down here, and never see her face, but know her by the sound of creaking floorboards, a rustle of quiet cotton, maybe by watching the birds on the lawn. And my unstable and lonely, all that could live up in the attic with her, too. Great writers are like that – they carry the craft for the rest of us, the mediocre, who are happy just to sit downstairs on the porch
I keep breaking cigarettes in my left pocket
They are fixated on my left breast
There is tobacco spilled in pocket and my mouth
The boys make their own cigarettes
And they say don’t put that trash in your body
But it reminds me of boys
I miss them
They last longer then the taste
I taste them in the smoke
You are quick and bright and loud
And I am quite bold and proud
And if we hit like I think we will
We’ll make a storm strong enough to kill
But if we drop
You’ll turn to ash
And I’ll freeze over smooth as glass
In the backyard her mouth is full of marbles
Comes from a shaking throat down a stomach full of scars
I remember this through glass, my eye to a beer bottle
After I drank it and before I chucked it at the cat
It didn’t break though because of the grass
Thumped and bounced, little sound on a big brown Ohio
There’s a thing, a brown thing about Ohio
It’s nothing like throwing marbles
It’s more to do with lying in the grass
Like my mother’s stomach, it’s a state of scars
She birthed me and felt ruined so she got a cat
When I was old enough I killed it with a bottle
I knew a girl once who could fit inside a bottle
She was the prettiest girl in Ohio
But she was eaten by my mother’s cat
So I tried to make it swallow marbles
We fought and he won, left me three scars
Skinny like three red blades of grass
Whenever I lie down it feels like grass
I wake up in green like my friend woke up in a bottle
One time we counted all my mother’s scars
She wasn’t awake but she looked like Ohio
There on the bed with eyes like skin-wrapped marbles
No one saw us do it except maybe the cat
And I don’t think she ever found the cat
I split it somewhere in the tall grass
And I don’t think I ever found my marbles
I got sick of glass which was why I threw the bottle
Thumped on the ugly bottom of Ohio
Very deep and bad and busy with scars
There’s a thing, a funny thing about my mother’s scars
When you squint your eyes they look like the cat
Or they look like the shape of Ohio
I saw her in the yard once with a mouth full of grass
Trying to get her face inside a bottle
But that was before I threw the marbles
I know the marbles are good because they don’t make scars
I know the bottle is bad because it killed the cat
And I know there’s grass always – I stuffed it in the bad wet mouth of Ohio.
Julia is from New York City. She likes Harmony Korine and Adventure Time.
It is the glade of dead trees that wakes my eyelids
and slur their film, each trunk like the stem
of a rose with its roots all brambled. The needles
are sticky on the ground; the light comes in patches
and rests on them like too-thin summer sheets.
The land is an animal. Heather fur surrounds the bald
underbelly, the most vulnerable, the most bizarre.
Inside, just trees dying at comfortable distances,
as men stuck up in tattered houses, unwilling
to submit to proper care. The last left to a name.
Azalea whistles on the outskirts. The sun presents itself
in bows of white, bending around pointed treetops,
generous with life. Yet the only life here is the slow
build of energetic death, the sound of my pulse
returning back to me in echos. Somewhere behind
my body, a tree cracks and I do not see it fall.
Written and Performed by Faith Griffiths '11 w/ Fiddle and Voice back-up by Amanda Vorce '10 Faith Griffiths has had a personal affirmation this term that she likes best creating work that is childish/fantastical/dinosaurs/baking/but-not-necessarily-just-for-children themed. In the past she did not believe that these were themes she could do serious and respectable work on; her time at Bennington proves that if she works very hard and is true to what is inside of her, "I most certainly can".